I’ll be honest — after my last recap, I was really hoping Northwestern men’s basketball (6-14, 3-13 B1G) would somehow pull off a victory against No. 21 Wisconsin (16-8, 10-7 B1G) Sunday night. A win for the ’Cats would have let them avoid a losing streak spanning 13 games, given them some momentum to close the season, and allowed me to avoid writing a pun spanning around a “baker’s dozen” of losses.
And despite this, the bakery opened with a record turnout.
Northwestern dropped a huge loss to Wisconsin Sunday night, with the Badgers beating the Wildcats 68-51. Despite the ’Cats keeping pace with the Badgers to start the game and showing the re-emergence of sophomore guard Boo Buie, Northwestern was simply overpowered by fantastic play from Wisconsin, losing the lead in the dwindling minutes of the first half and never getting it back.
“Very disappointing loss,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said postgame. “I thought we played very sloppy tonight, and I always take responsibility for that… I thought early in the game we did some good things, but I thought our decision making overall tonight was not very good, we over-dribbled at times, didn't move the ball like we needed to, and because of that, they made us pay.”
Wisconsin was led in their effort by the stellar performance of senior forward Micah Potter, who came off the bench to score 19 points and shoot 7-for-8 from the floor, including 3-for-3 from downtown. Potter also nabbed eight rebounds and dished three assists. The Badgers also saw double-digit performances from four other players, including senior guard D’Mitrik Trice (13 points), first-year guard Jonathan Davis (12 points), senior guard Brad Davison (12 points) and sophomore forward Tyler Wahl (10 points).
Almost on the other end of the spectrum, Northwestern could not get anything going offensively, with the rare exception of sophomore guard Boo Buie. Buie, who came off the bench the past four games and had scored only single-digit totals, returned to the starting lineup with a flash, tying the leading scorer with 19 points, while also dishing four assists.
“I felt like in the Illinois game… he was able to start attacking, he got into the paint and made plays, and I thought he carried that over,” Collins said of Buie's performance. “Usually he's a pretty good barometer, and when he's playing well, we usually feed off of that in the games we have won. He played at a really high level, and a lot of the games where we've had a chance to win, he's played well… that was probably the one bright spot, being able to see him come out and see the ball go in a little bit, but also make some plays.”
Buie, however, was the lone star for the ’Cats, as no other Northwestern player scored above single-digits all night; the next-highest total was scored by sophomore forward Robbie Beran, with seven points.
While the final score was lopsided, the game actually started as a close affair, with Buie matching the Badgers’ every shot. The guard was making floaters and deep corner threes, and at the first tv timeout, he alone had outscored the Badgers 7-5.
The ’Cats and the Badgers then traded blows, baskets and leads, finding themselves in a dead heat in all statistics, except foul shooting. Over the last nine minutes of the half, however, Northwestern went characteristically cold, allowing Wisconsin to outscore them 19-6 and take a 34-24 lead into halftime.
Unlike other recent games, however, the ’Cats showed little effort in a second-half comeback, while the Badgers just continued to pull away. Northwestern was clanking shots, turning the ball over, and failing to keep pace. The second half was never competitive, and the Badgers ran away with the score, winning the match 68-51 and handing the ’Cats their 13th consecutive loss; the longest streak in Collins’ tenure as head coach.
“I thought we were gonna play much better tonight,” Collins said. “Obviously, as a staff we take responsibility for that. We’ve got to have these guys ready to go, and hopefully, we’ll be much better against Minnesota, in our next one.”
The ’Cats were mired by the usual suspects during this losing streak: foul trouble, too many turnovers and poor three-point shooting. Wisconsin nearly doubled Northwestern’s free-throw totals, taking 15 shots to the ’Cats’ 8; Northwestern also shot zero free throws in the first half. The ’Cats also committed 14 turnovers to Wisconsin’s 8, with many coming on possessions without a single shot, and also shot 30% from deep to the Badgers’ 36%. When asked about the team’s struggles, Buie admitted it was across the floor, not just one issue.
“I think it’s a combination of both [shooting and defense],” Buie said. “I think that we make a lot of silly turnovers that aren't really forced by the other team, kind of in transition, we were a little bit careless at times with the ball. So I think that that affects us, and obviously on defense, just not allowing offensive rebounds and second chance points, and not foul as much as well. I think just the combination of those hurt us tonight.”
Despite starting the season 3-0, the ’Cats have lost 13 straight games, the first team to do so in Big Ten history. While this is disheartening, there is a bright side: the ’Cats don’t have another ranked matchup for the rest of the regular season, and they still look competitive in other aspects; hopefully this will carry over when they play Minnesota Thursday night.
Let’s hope the bakery closes soon.